Florida Teacher Removed for Message Comparing Students That Refuse to Stand for Pledge of Allegiance to 'Pampered, Arrogant Celebrities'

A Florida educator is under investigation for criticizing students who choose not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, potentially in violation of district code of conduct.

An image of a message the First Coast High School teacher wrote on his class whiteboard during a marine biology lesson went viral this week after being posted online. The faculty member, who referenced himself as "Mr. Goodman," has since been removed from duties, WJXT reported.

The message, which also lambasted any teenagers who did not stand during "The Star-Spangled Banner," is now being reviewed by the Duval County Office of Professional Standards.

The teacher's message read: "You are all extremely lucky to be living in the U.S.A. If you refuse to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance or our National Anthem, are you revealing maturity and wisdom? Actually, you are displaying the opposite. (As some pampered arrogant celebrities and athletes tend to do.)" The words "extremely lucky" were underlined multiple times.

A spokesperson for the Duval County Public Schools district said the message had been brought to officials' attention on Wednesday, the same day it gained traction on social media.

"It was implied in the statement that students who fail to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance lack maturity," the spokesperson said, WJXT reported. "The statements made by the educator are not consistent with state statute or school board policy." The teacher's stance, which has been fiercely debated online, may be a violation of the district's code of conduct, it was noted.

The Duval County secondary school code states: "Students have the right not to participate in reciting the pledge. Upon written request by his or her parent, a student must be excused from reciting the pledge, including standing and placing the right hand over his or her heart."

This is Amerikkka.... My daughter sent me this from class... I guess us blacks should be “lucky”

Posted by Clarissa L. Valentine on Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The teacher's message also made references to race, voting rights, equality and historical slavery—sparking anger from some local parents who took issue with his statements.

The text said: "THINK: We had about a half million Americans die in our Civil War, which was largely to get rid of slavery. There are no longer separate water fountains and bathrooms in Jacksonville for 'white' and 'colored,' as Mr. Goodman remembers from the 1960s."

"We had an amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowing women the right to vote. We have had a Black president, the superintendent of Duval Schools is a Black woman. Mr. Fluent, our principal, replaced a Black man, Mr. Simmons, who is now a D.C.P.S. administrator," it added.

The teacher did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Regional superintendent Scott Schneider did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The image of the man's whiteboard message was first uploaded to Facebook by a mother of a student and has since attracted thousands of shares and more than 1,200 user comments. "My daughter sent me this from class... I guess us blacks should be 'lucky,'" the woman wrote.

Another Facebook user shared the viral image this week, writing: "What makes the teacher feel like this is appropriate? We are LUCKY to have basic rights and to be treated humane?"

In a statement obtained by The Florida Times-Union, Justin Fluent, the school's principal, said: "I believe classrooms provide the perfect place to have insightful and thought-provoking discussions about patriotic expressions and civil liberty. However, this must be done in a productive and respectful way, and in accordance with law and school board policy."

One local mother told WJXT that she will attempt to remove her daughter from the class if the teacher is not properly disciplined after completion of the official review. "His opinion is his opinion and he is entitled to his opinion, but the classroom, especially a marine biology class, is not the place for that," she said.

Pledge of Allegiance
U.S. citizen holds a flag to his chest during the Pledge of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony at the New York Public Library, July 3, 2018 in New York City. A Florida teacher is under investigation for criticizing students who do not to stand for the pledge. Drew Angerer/Getty